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Rome Film Fest Rebuilds, Adds Focus on China

Topper Marco Mueller adds Chinese pics as well as an industry focus on the Asian country while feeding his passion for preems

Former Venice Film Festival topper Marco Mueller (pictured) has finally gotten the chance to put his stamp on the Rome Film Fest this year. Technically, this is Mueller’s second season atop the metropolitan festival, but last year, forced to pick out a lineup in haste, he insisted on including only world premieres and wound up with a lineup that was out of sync with the tastes of the average Roman filmgoer.

Not surprisingly for a man who speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese, Mueller has China playing a big role in his reimagining of the festival. He nabbed the fest premiere of Tsui Hark’s Chinese 3D megahit “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon,” which screens out of competition Nov. 16, and will feature Chinese rocker Cui Jian’s directorial debut, “Blue Sky Bones,” set against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, in competition Nov. 13.

Rome and its post-AFM Business Street mart have two days dedicated to China, packed with panels and meetings dedicated to co-productions with Europe and prospects for improved distribution of European movies in Asia.

“Rome is becoming the natural connecting point between the European industry and the BRIC countries,” Mueller boasts. He even has plans to turn Business Street into a bona-fide mart with booths next year, claiming there is a wide range of non English-language product that is not served by AFM.

Still, Mueller calls his tightly spun selection for Rome’s eighth edition “schizophrenic,” in that it’s characterized by the coexistence of many seemingly disparate elements.

The challenge has been to bolster the fest’s role as a place where movies can be launched and also discovered. More than half the films in the 71-pic lineup are world preems. The festival, which runs through Nov. 17, opened Nov. 8 with Giovanni Veronesi’s “The Fifth Wheel,” a big-budget comedy produced by Warner Bros. Entertainment Italia and Fandango.

Festival Highlights

“Her”

Spike Jonze’s tale of cyberlove, starring Joaquin Phoenix (fest bow: Nov. 12)

“Out of the Furnace”

Scott Cooper’s drama set in a U.S. steel town. (fest bow: Nov. 12)

“Another Me”

Isabel Coixet’s supernatural thriller, from Fox Intl. Prods. (fest bow: Nov. 15)

“Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon”

Chinese helmer Tsui Hark’s 3D hit crime-actioner. (fest bow: Nov. 16)

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